Have you ever wondered what propels certain people to create things artistically? Whether it is visual arts, writing, music, or any other form of madness which some feel compelled to create out of nothing, something has driven these people to work and rework something until it takes on a life of its own. Any art is a form of expression, usually gathering details from the world around them, and trying to make sense of it.
As far as you can go back, people have done this. In early times when some where struggling to not starve to death, or not be trampled by a giant animal they were hunting with a spear, one of their clan looked up at the starry sky and figured there was some sort of meaning in all of that. People try to look for the patterns in things, and artists are the ones who really go to town when it comes to interpreting these patterns. This is how we get things like religion, art, music, comedy, storytelling, and science (as much as science now tries to divorce itself from the rest). It’s an inheirant flaw in the one creating these things who just isn’t satisfied with taking things for granted. They have to fret and fiddle and tinker and tweak until it does. Or comes close. And then they start all over again.
In ancient times, this sort of mental defect gave people holy status. Shamans, oracles, soothsayers; this difference was noted and elevated to some other status. The Other. The Weird. Seeing the world with a different set of eyes. Nowadays, this sort of talk is consider pretentious. Art is considered with deference to putting a coat of paint on a wall, music is something that guy in the town square does because he won’t get a real job, and don’t get me started on writing. I’m sure I have half a dozen posts around here talking about how the work writers put into the craft of stringing words together is something lots of people feel like they can do (and they probably can) but probably not all that well.
So where does this defect come from? I tend to think of it as a pearl inside an oyster. Most oysters are happy being blobs of salty snot attached to rocks and piers by their hard external coverings. But sometimes a piece of sand gets inside and to protect itself from this irritation, the ball of snot forms a calcium coating around it until it becomes something valuable to people right before they’ve slurped the ball of snot down right out of its shell with a little bit of hot sauce or lemon juice.
The idea is an irritant, and the artform protects the fragile mind of the artist from destroying itself from the absurdity or pain of such a thing. The conflict. The places only dreamed of, that would otherwise just exist and slowly drive this person mad. Unfortunately, the artist is already sorta there. After all, they are wired somehow to pick up these signals, while most of the rest of the species is fine with watching Real Housewives or focus on not starving to death in a hovel.
Is it a bad childhood? A defining moment that rattled the artist’s perception? Lack of kids their age to play with on their street? Some sort of defense mechanism that makes them look at details in some way that is different from others? Something that makes someone bad at parties because they can walk into a room full of people, sit down with their drink and just listen to those around them, pet the cat or dog for an hour, and go home again. Something that said to them it was hard to be around people for very long because it just reminded them of their own Otherness. The drink or drugs are relied upon as a social lubricant, to numb those thoughts that would intrude in what most people would consider “fun” but to the Other are felt as much of a waste of time as a “normal” person would consider brush strokes, rhyming patterns, themes, or minor key.
Sometimes I feel like schools have been working against promoting this kind of creativity for a long time. But thinking differently is why we have pretty much anything that isn’t rolling around in the mud for roots or fighting off competing predators for a rotting wildebeest carcass. Even then, the first proto-human to figure out that a stick or rock to the snout of one of those slavering monsters bought you some time to get more food was an artist in their own way. It’s just strange knowing that to see how little art and creativity is valued.
We take it for granted. You turn on the radio and hear music you probably couldn’t play, that talent takes your mind off your monotonous commute between commercials for things you don’t need. You eat a dinner at a nice restaurant you probably don’t know how to make. You read part of a novel that someone spent two years of their life writing and chuck into the donation pile when you are sick of it. You call that painting in your hotel room tacky, but could you have painted it?
All this taking things for granted devalues it. Something not long ago that our ancestors considered holy is now just…not important. Disposable. Of no consequence.